Gamescom 2012: Dead Island: Riptide First Look Preview – A Watery Grave
Written Sunday, September 02, 2012 By Lee AbrahamsView author's profile
Zombies are a popular theme nowadays (unless you’re the Cookie Monster that is) and the first Dead Island game successfully mixed a blend of first person combat, RPG elements and classic zombie slaying. So it probably came as no surprise when a sequel was inevitably announced, giving players another chance to indulge in some undead carnage. To find out what was under the hood this time around we sat down with the developers and were presented with all the new tweaks and additions. Be prepared for a few spoilers if you haven’t yet played the first title.
Taking place straight after the first game Dead Island: Riptide picks up where we left off according to the developers, “You will learn what happened to your guys after they flew off in a helicopter at the end of the first game.” Not long after that something happens, the chopper goes down and, wouldn’t you know it you’re stranded on an island that just so happens to have a bit of a zombie problem. Not exactly the most novel of openings but at least it gives us another chance to decapitate zombies left, right and centre. You can expect to see the same posse from first time around, plus a mysterious new military character that joins you along the way. In fact the main changes to the game actually come through an increased use of water mechanics and a shift in terms of combat.
The Riptide moniker is not just a clever name either, as the developers have added an increased emphasis on water and boating. The island has been flooded by a tropical monsoon which can lead to our heroes being trapped in certain spots without any means of escape, the shifting currents proving to be just one more obstacle in your path to safety. Luckily you can also swipe and control a wide variety of boats to zip around the various water channels and by ways of the local area. Packing them with your teammates you can use your boat to smash aside zombies and fend off swarms of your watery foes, your teammates can also nimbly dodge around the boat to whack any potential insurgents. It’s a fun addition to the rather limited vehicular combat of the first game and one that should throw up a few more exciting opportunities as the game progresses.
In terms of combat the developers were keen to address the fact that guns were so underwhelming, for lack of a better word, in the first title. Players who chose to specialise in firearms got the raw end of the deal as guns and ammo were fairly scarce, and the damage they did was a fraction of that available to some of the most powerful melee weapons. This time around though, guns will be more useful and you’ll be able to find a much wider variety of them from the get go. You can also salvage much more powerful gear, like gatling guns and the like, from broken down vehicles and crashed choppers. That’s not to say that you won’t have a range of other weapons too of course, with a whole host of new melee items, blueprints and explosives to choose from meaning that you can always be fully equipped. You can also recruit military backup as you progress, but if you don’t take care of them correctly it might mean a few extra zombies gnawing at your heels.
Of course what good is all of that gear if you never get to use it? “The problem when you play an RPG is that you always get to collect all this cool stuff,” says the Techland team, “But then you finish the game and you still have an inventory full of items that you never got to use.” Instead of making players hoard items the team instead wants them to find situations to use as many as possible, hence a new fortification and defense system. At key stages of the game the player can help out follow survivors by tooling up, setting up defenses such as fences, gun turrets and floating mines. Seeing it all in action, it’s hard not to be impressed as floating trip mines explode to whittle down the onrushing horde, while your team can man hastily set up turrets to tear apart any stragglers. Of course, the sheer amount of zombies means that some will start tearing down your defences in short order leading to some hasty melee combat. It’s like watching a well crafted horde mode within the main game itself, and should lead to some memorable set pieces especially when played in co-op.
Luckily for old players you can also import your previously saved characters into the new game for a spot of knock down, drag out action and there will be plenty of new leveling to do and loot to find along the way. They have also made the co-op system a bit fairer as well, so that enemies will level according to each individual player rather than just being tied in with the host as used to be the case. This means that you can now have a mix of veterans and newcomers which should lead to a lot more co-op action considering how hard it could be to successfully find a team last time out.
It’s clear though that the tweaks here are fairly minor, and are mainly ones that seek to address some of the main criticisms leveled at the original. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as there was plenty to enjoy in Dead Island but there is also a risk that it could be more of the same. The graphics are slightly more polished and there are certainly a few new foes, but there is still a very familiar look and feel in comparison to the last game. Hopefully the new emphasis on NPC interactions, water based travel and high octane defense missions should add that little something extra to Dead Island: Riptide, but otherwise this is a subtle spin on the formula rather than a complete overhaul.
Expect to see Dead Island Riptide clawing its way out of a muddy sinkhole when it lands (or rather crash lands) in 2013.